An extreme closeup portrait of the alpha male chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.


An extreme closeup portrait of the alpha male chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda.

Photo by: by Marc Guitard

by Marc Guitard

Jimiyu the Chimp Just Got Vaccinated

By: Lucy Sherriff

On the last day of September, an unlikely patient received a COVID-19 vaccination. Jimiyu, a 29-year-old male chimpanzee living at Saint Louis Zoo in Missouri, became the first animal at the zoo to receive a dose of Zoetis.

October 08, 2021

Over the next few months, the zoo is rolling out a vaccine program to almost 100 primates, big cats, river otters, painted dogs, and bat-eared foxes, all of which carry a potential risk of being infected by COVID-19 – which is on the rise among zoo animals across the country.

The zoo is using Zoetis – specifically formulated for animals – on a case-by-case, experimental basis. No animals at the facility have been diagnosed with the virus, and the vaccines are being rolled out as a precaution.

A 4-month-old infant chimpanzee holds tightly to her mom on March 9, 2021, at the St. Louis Zoo.


An infant chimpanzee and her mother on March 9, 2021, at the St. Louis Zoo.

Photo by: mrolands


An infant chimpanzee and her mother on March 9, 2021, at the St. Louis Zoo.

“A lot of times we’ll train them with something that’s not sharp like a needle, something dull and slowly build up that behavior until they accept a sharp needle,” Dr. Sathya Chinnadurai, the zoo’s director of animal health, said. “That includes being trained to present a body part for a hand injection so many of our primates will actually come up to the mesh interact with their keeper staff and actually present either a shoulder or a leg to be given an injection awake.”

He explained there were some animals who were a “little bit” suspicious, but that most had a good relationship with their keepers.

“And so through a lot of positive reinforcement and training, we're able to administer a lot of our vaccines to animals voluntarily.”

ST. LOUIS - AUGUST 10:  St. Louis Zoo in St. Louis, Missouri on August 10, 2017.  (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images)


St. Louis Zoo in St. Louis, Missouri.

Photo by: Raymond Boyd

Raymond Boyd

St. Louis Zoo in St. Louis, Missouri.

A total of 35 animals at the zoo have already received their first dose, among them orangutans, lemurs, foxes, and big cats. The great apes and the big cats were the zoo’s highest priority animals to vaccinate, because they can contract and pass on the same viruses that affect humans.

There has been a recent spate of covid cases at zoos, including gorillas in Kansas City, a tiger in the Great Plains, and lions at the National Zoo in DC, all testing positive from the virus. Some of the animals had displayed symptoms such as coughing and a lack of appetite.

“There are a number of upper respiratory diseases that we could transmit to an ape or an ape could potentially transmit to a person,” Chinnadurai said. “It's a little less common for us to see this type of disease transmission go from a human to something like a big cat, but it's still definitely possible.”

The vaccine, developed by Zoetis, an animal health company, has been authorized by the US Department of Agriculture for experimental use, but it has not yet been approved by the FDA.


The zoo prioritized vaccinating big cats and chimps.

Photo by: Scott-Cartwright-Photography


The zoo prioritized vaccinating big cats and chimps.

Vets believe that some animals are at risk of catching the coronavirus from respiratory droplets from humans, such as zookeepers who may have close contact with the animals.

Jimuyu, meanwhile, received the coronavirus vaccine (among others) during a regularly scheduled veterinary exam that included cardiac and dental checkups under anesthesia at the Endangered Species Research and Veterinary Hospital at the zoo.

He is recovering well in a private area in the Jungle of Apes habitat, and will be closely monitored by the zoo’s animal care teams.

“Preventive health is most of what we do here,” Chinnadurai added. “We really believe in keeping our animals healthy, not just treating them when they are sick. With cases of coronavirus infection coming up in zoos around the country, we are lucky to be able to give this vaccine to our at-risk patients.”

Next Up

The 7 Best Moments from Carole Baskin's Reddit AMA

Carole Baskin did the unthinkable and opened the floor to questions from social media's toughest audience. She answered everything from what she thinks happened to her husband to what can we expect from her new docu-series on discovery+, Carole Baskin's Cage Fight — here are the best moments from Carole Baskin's Reddit AMA.

Georgia Aquarium Welcomes Beluga Whale Calf

The calf was born Sunday, May 17th to a 20-year-old adult beluga named Whisper, who has lived at Georgia Aquarium since early 2019. For more details, watch WHISPER GIVES BIRTH on Animal Planet GO.

Jeff and Lauren Lowe are Permanently Banned from Exhibiting Animals

This comes after the documentary stars and self-proclaimed rivals of Carole Baskin were accused of animal abuse and neglect.Stream Carole Baskin’s Cage Fight on discovery+.

Bindi Irwin and Chandler Powell Welcome Fur Baby into Family

Bindi Irwin and Chandler Powell rang in the new year with a new furry family member, a puppy named Piggy.

Kansas City Chiefs Derrick Nnadi Tackled Shelter Adoption After His Super Bowl LIV Win

Kansas City Chiefs Derrick Nnadi had two things on his to do list this weekend - win Super Bowl LIV and help the good people of Kansas City adopt animals from the KC Pet Project.

California Oil Spill Wreaks Havoc on Wildlife

A devastating oil spill caused by a pipeline failure off the coast of Orange County, California has sent 126,000 gallons gushing into the Pacific ocean.

Meet the Animals Who Survived the Tiger King

The all-new documentary special ‘SURVIVING JOE EXOTIC’ premieres July 25 at 10P ET/PT on Animal Planet and features one of Joe Exotic’s last formal interviews before his arrest.

4 Reasons You Can't Miss the New Season of Crikey! It's the Irwins

The new season of CRIKEY! IT'S THE IRWINS will stream exclusively on discovery+ starting February 7!

Internet Cat Superstar Lil BUB Dead at Age 8

Lil BUB, the cat whose unique appearance spawned an internet empire, has passed away at age 8.

Virtual Pet Adoption is Here!

Online dating not your thing? Fair enough, but what about finding other love online?

Related To: